Safety first. While ice fishing season is a great time of year to fill your freezer with tasty, coldwater fish, it is not worth risking your life. When you go ice fishing, make sure to always tell someone you are going and where you plan to set up in case of emergency. Also, packing an ice pick like the Eagle Claw Safety Ice Pick is always a good idea. While floating jackets and bibs have been on the market for some time now, they have just recently picked up steam in the ice fishing world. Using these floating devices is a reassurance that, if you were to fall in, you would float rather than sink. This is especially important with all of the heavy clothing ice anglers are accustomed to wearing. Striker Ice’s Guardian Jacket and Frabill’s I-Float Jacket are great examples of these wearable floating devices.
Make sure your auger blades are sharp. This is something many anglers often forget to do at the beginning of a new ice season. The best way to check this is with a piece of thin cardboard or paper. Run the paper or cardboard along the edge of the blade to test the sharpness. If the blade is able to leave a nick or small cut in the material, the blade is sharp enough. If there is no damage done to the paper or cardboard, the blade will need to be sharpened.
Gloves, gloves, and more gloves. Everyone who ice fishes can remember a time where their gloves got wet. This creates an uncomfortable situation for the remainder of the day. The easy solution to this problem is packing extra gloves. Having two pairs of warm, waterproof gloves, like Striker Elements Second Skin Gloves or IceArmor Dry Skinz Gloves, for time out on the ice will ensure a much more comfortable day, even if a pair gets wet. Having an extra pair of fleece gloves can ensure that your hands stay warm and dry while walking out to your fishing hole and back at the end of the day.
Organize your gear. Though this might sound like a waste of time for the veteran ice angler who knows their gear won’t stay organized for long, it can be helpful for taking inventory of everything before the ice season kicks off. Knowing how much you have of everything and ensuring it is all in working order is extremely useful weeks into ice season.
Buy your bait early. This can make life way easier for early ice anglers. Buying your larvae like maggots, waxworms and mealworms before the season starts will let you get on the ice as soon as it’s ready without having to worry about whether or not the local bait shop is stocked. For the same reason, having alternatives like Berkley Gulp! Alive! Maggots or Berkley Gulp! Alive! Minnows is also a good idea.
Watch the winds. If you like to fish early ice, a good habit to get into is watching the wind patterns. The wind can control what side of a water body will be fishable and what area(s) to stay away from. If the wind is hitting the side of a lake all week, it most likely has a lot of current and may have even had waves on it just a day or two before. Fishing small bays and protected areas are typically best during the start of ice season.
Make sure you have a chisel. This tool, also called a spudbar, is very important when fishing early ice. Spudding your way out on the ice can save your life by keeping you from walking too far. One of the best, most economical chisels on the market is Eskimo’s Economy Redneck Chisel. Similar to auger blades, if you do have a spudbar, make sure it is sharp.
Check your heater and propane tanks. Having a full propane tank and a working heater will allow you to stay warm on the ice. Using a propane tank warmer, like Jiffy’s Propane Tank Protector, on the outside of your tank will cause it to work more efficiently and, in turn, make it last longer.
Prepare a first aid kit. Most anglers carry a first aid kit while boating. It is also important to have one available when out on the ice. If an accident happens on the ice, having a kit can allow you to stay out on the ice rather than come in early, depending on the severity of the injury.
Plan on trying some new techniques. To become a more experienced, advanced angler, you need to try new things. Giving new baits and different fishing techniques a try allows you to gain more knowledge and may even improve the way you currently fish. It can also open up a whole new way for you to target fish.
FishUSA Staff is comprised of several anglers with various backgrounds working for FishUSA.